This study aimed to examine the dietary glycaemic index (GI) and glycaemic load (GL) of Australian children and adolescents, as well as the major food groups contributing to GL, in the recent 2011–2012 Australian Health Survey. Plausible food intake data from 1876 children and adolescents (51 % boys), collected using a multiple-pass 24-h recall, were analysed. The GI of foods was assigned based on a step-wise published method using values from common GI databases. Descriptive statistics were calculated for dietary GI, GL and contribution to GL by food groups, stratified by age group and sex. Linear regression was used to test for trends across age groups for BMI, dietary GI and GL, and intakes of energy, nutrients and food groups. Pearson’s χ2 test was used to test for differences between age groups for categorical subject characteristic variables. Mean dietary GI and GL of participants were 55·5 (sd 5·3) and 137·4 (sd 50·8), respectively. The main contributors to dietary GL were starchy foods: breads, cereal-based dishes, breakfast cereals, flours, grains and potatoes accounted for 41 % of total GL. Sweetened beverages, fruit and vegetable juices/drinks, cake-type desserts and sweet biscuits contributed 15 %. No significant difference (at P<0·001) was observed between sexes. In conclusion, Australian children and adolescents appear to consume diets with a lower GI than European children. Exchanging high-GI foods for low-GI alternatives within core and non-core foods may improve diet quality of Australian children and adolescents.